\

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh’s Favorite Comic Book Series of 2020!

Thanks for reading my lists of my favorite movies of 2020 and my favorite TV series of 2020!

Here now are my favorite comic book series of 2020!

First let’s start with some terrific graphic novels:

Superman Smashes the Klan (by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru) — Based on the classic Superman radio serial from the forties, this fantastic all-ages retelling was a beautiful story about acceptance and inclusion.

Powers: The Best Ever (by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming) — The grand finale of this long-running indie comic book about the homicide cops in a super-hero and super-villain filled universe was everything I wanted.  (Click here for my full review.)

Reckless (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) — The first of two glorious new graphic novels by my favorite writer/artist team in comics today, Reckless appears to launch a series of hard-boiled noir stories, and I couldn’t be happier.

Pulp (by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips) — As much as I loved Reckless, it was Pulp that was Brubaker & Phillips’ true 2020 masterpiece.  Pulp depicts an aging cowboy who scrapes together a meager living writing pulp adventure stories based on his younger days.  When he encounters a Jewish Pinkerton agent with a connection to one of his adventures, his life takes a dramatic turn.  This book was genius, and if you read only one book from this list, make it this one.

And this notable one-shot:

Giant Size X-Men: Tribute to Len Wein and Dave Cockrum This beautiful salute to the original Giant Size X-Men #1, which introduced the “all new, all-different” X-Men (the team that contained Wolverine, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and others) way back in 1975, was amazing.  Each page was redrawn by a different artist. The result was a wonderful new work of art that was a fantastic love-letter to one of the most important comic books ever made.

And here, now are my favorite comic book series of 2020:

20. Dark Nights: Death Metal (and tie-ins) (by Scott Snyder & Greg Capullo & many others) — I hardly understood any of this absolutely bonkers DC crossover storyline, but dang if it wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun anyway, as “heavy metal” versions of the DC characters battled their evil alternate universe counterparts as age DC multiverse faced destruction once again.  Extra points for how much fun all of the tie-in books were; usually, crossover tie-ins are a huge waste of time, but not so here.

19. Marvel’s Star Wars comics — It’s pretty impressive how consistently good-to-great Marvel Comics’ Star Wars series have been!  This year, their main series finally caught up to the events of The Empire [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Click here for part one of my list of my Favorite Movies of 2020, and click here for part two.  And now, let’s dive into my top Five Favorite Movies of 2020!

5. News of the World I wrestled with which 2020 Tom Hanks film I preferred: News of the World or Greyhound.  Ultimately I gave News of the World the higher ranking, but I wonder if I’ll feel differently a year from now.  They’re both great films!  In News of the World, Mr. Hanks plays Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a veteran of the Civil War who now eeks out a living by traveling from town to town to read from newspapers for the townspeople’s entertainment and edification.  Captain Kidd winds up entangled with a young girl named Johanna, who was kidnapped from her family years ago and raised among a tribe of Native Americans; now she is alone and Captain Kidd sets out to reunite her with her surviving family members.  The film is adapted from the novel by Paulette Jiles and directed by Paul Greengrass.  I thought the film was a delightful departure for Mr. Greengrass — it’s far more slowly paced and elegiac than the intense dramas and action films for which Mr. Greengrass is best known.  But his skill is on display in every frame of their beautiful, melancholy film.  Tom Hanks gives yet another spectacular performance.  (There’s a scene, late in the film, in which Captain Kidd finally faces the grief he’s buried, and it’s an extraordinary few moments of film.)  This is classical movie-making of the best kind.  (My full review is coming soon.)

4. On the Rocks Sophia Coppola’s latest film stars Rashida Jones as Laura, a woman who begins to suspect that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is cheating on her.  So Laura enlists the aid of her wealthy, lecherous, “man about town” father, Felix (Bill Murray, reuniting at last with Ms. Coppola for the first time since Lost in Translation), to track Dean and get to the bottom of what’s going on.  On the Rocks is very funny at times — the pairing of Mr. Murray and Ms. Jones yields as much comedic fruit as I’d hoped — while also being a moving, sometimes sad story of the complicated relationship between Laura and her father.  I love how nuanced this film’s storytelling is.  No one is reduced to a simple character, a hero or a villain.  Everyone in this film is imperfect, and Ms. Coppola demonstrates an endearing amount of affection for these broken, flawed people.  I love that about the film.  (My full review is coming soon.)

3. The Vast of Night First-time filmmaker … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2020 — Part Two!

On Monday I began my list of my favorite movies of 2020!  And now, let’s enter my Top Ten:

10. Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary — Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary is exactly what it sounds like — a feature-length look back at the making of 1999’s Galaxy Quest!  It makes me so happy that Galaxy Quest is now getting this type of love.  I have loved Galaxy Quest ever since seeing it in the theater back in 1999, and this documentary (directed by Jack Bennett) was a delight from start to finish.  It’s a joyous celebration of this terrific film, filled with interviews with the entire cast and a deep bench of the behind-the-scenes players who were involved in the creation of this great sci-fi comedy.  If you’re a Galaxy Quest fan, this is a must-watch.  (Click here for my full review.)

9. The 40-Year-Old Version Radha Blank wrote, directed, produced, and stars in this wonderfully off-beat and moving film about a woman named Radha who, despite early success as a playwright, is now, in her forties, feeling lost and unmoored.  Ms. Blank is spectacular in the film.  She’s a tremendous comedic force, and she’s also a very strong dramatic actor.  I love how silly the film is at times, and yet how at the same time, as the film unfolds, it develops into a very deep character study.  Ms. Radha was able to take many autobiographical aspects of her own life and spin them into this beautiful and unusual film.  While the title is a play on Judd Apatow’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin, this film has nothing to do with Mr. Apatow’s film.  It tells a completely different, very original, story.  I loved it.  (My full review will be coming soon.)  (Above photo by Eric Branco, Courtesy of Sundance Institute.)

8. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom Adapted from the play by August Wilson, this beautiful and heartbreaking film, from director George C. Wolfe, is set in 1927 and depicts a very contentious day in the life of African-American blues singer Ma Rainey and her band.  The film features the final performance of the late, great Chadwick Boseman, who is absolutely mesmerizing as Levee, the brash young trumpeter in Ma’s band.  (Mr. Boseman was also in Da 5 Bloods, which made part 1 of my best of 2020 list.)  Viola Davis plays Ma Rainey, and it’s a powerhouse of a performance.  The film is gorgeous, compelling, and emotionally wrenching.  (Click here for my full review.)

7. Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan Sacha Baron Cohen’s brilliant sequel is hilarious and … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Josh’s Favorite Movies of 2020 — Part One!

I hope you enjoyed my look back at my favorite TV series of 2020!  And now, let’s dive into my favorite movies of 2020:

15. Happy Happy Joy Joy: The Ren & Stimpy Story I was a huge fan of The Ren & Stimpy Show back when it first started airing on Nickelodeon in the early nineties.  Ron Cicero and Kimo Easterwood’s documentary is an insightful, in-depth look back at the creation of this innovative series.  It’s also an exploration of what went wrong, and why the series burned so brightly but for so short a time.  In addition to taking a deep dive into the creation and production of The Ren & Stimpy Show, the documentary contains extensive interview footage Ren & Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi, who in recent years has been accused of sexual abuse of two minors.  It’s fascinating and disturbing to hear directly from Mr. Kricfalusi.  Watching this documentary made me very happy, and also very sad.

14.  An American Pickle Seth Rogen plays dual roles as Herschel Greenbaum (frozen in a vat of pickles back in 1919 and awoken in 2020) and his great-grandson Ben Greenbaum.  Watching Seth Rogen play against himself is every bit as fun as you might expect.  It’s a terrific acting performance, and the visual effects are absolutely seamless.  Bravo to director Brandon Trost and his team!  The film is funny, and also, in the end, surprisingly sweet.  I quite enjoyed the way the film embraced the value of Jewish ritual and prayer.  If only the third act was stronger, this film would be much higher on my list.  (The late-in-the-film plot twist in which Herschel started getting into trouble for saying lots of inappropriate-in-2020 things might have seemed funny on paper, but in execution it spoiled my connection with the character and enjoyment of what had been a great film.  The film is still worth seeing — that’s why it’s on my list! — but those third act problems keep it from greatness, in my opinion.)  (Click here for my full review.)

13.  Da 5 Bloods I thoroughly enjoyed Spike Lee’s latest film, in which four Vietnam veterans reunite to travel back to ‘Nam.  Purportedly their mission is to recover and bring home the body of their fallen squad leader, but in fact they’re after a crate of CIA gold that they found and buried back during the war.  The cast is spectacular: Delroy Lindo, Clarke Peters, Norm Lewis, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr. are fantastic as the four surviving “Bloods”, and the late great Chadwick Boseman is tremendous, as he always was, as their dead leader “Stormin” Norman.  The Vietnam caper aspect of the story … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

We’ve arrived at the conclusion of my list of my favorite TV series of 2020!  Click here for part 1 of my list, click here for part two, click here for part three, and click here for part four!  And now, here are my five favorite TV series of 2020:

5. How To with John Wilson This bizarre, beautiful documentary series is hard to describe, and I think it’s best to go into it knowing as little as possible.  Filmmaker John Wilson has created six short masterpieces with this incredible first season.  Each episode purports to explore a different “how to” topic, but inevitably the joy of each episode is in the unexpected (and often deep and moving) digressions from that initial topic.  The series is a love-letter to New York City, and also to our wonderfully weird fellow human beings.  (My full review will be coming soon.)

4. Ted Lasso Jason Sudeikis, working with Bill Lawrence (mastermind behind the wonderful comedy Scrubs), Joe Kelly, and Brendan Hunt, took Mr. Sudeikis’ silly commercial character and turned him into the basis for one of the best new TV comedies I’ve seen in years.  The show is absolutely hilarious; but what makes it great is how soulful it is too, how joyful and life-affirming.  Mr. Sudeikis is absolutely perfect in the leading role as the incredibly up-beat Ted Lasso, an American football coach who, improbably, winds up coaching an English Premiere League football (what Americans call soccer) team.  The entire cast is dynamite.  This is a show in which I almost immediately fell in love with every single one of the main characters: Brendan Hunt as Coach Beard (his Doc Brown impersonation was amazing!!); Hannah Waddingham as team owner Rebecca Welton; Jeremy Swift as Rebecca’s sweet and unassuming assistant Leslie; Phil Dunster as the hot arrogant young super-star Jamie Tartt; Juno Temple as Jamie’s girlfriend Keeley Jones; Brett Goldstein as aging veteran Roy Ken; and Nick Mohammed as Nathan Shelle, the team’s kit man who flourishes under Ted Lasso’s influence.  I love this show!!  I can’t wait for season two!  (My full review will be coming soon.)

3. Brockmire season 4 The fourth and final season of this amazing show brought the story and characters to a wonderfully satisfying conclusion.  I love the way these four seasons gave such a rich and complete story-arc to the character of Jim Brockmire, the broken and profane disgraced baseball announcer.  As I have written many times before, this is the part Hank Azaria was born to play.  It’s an incredible comedic performance and an incredible dramatic performance, all in one.  I love how deeply this show is in love with baseball.  … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

I’m in the middle of my look back at my favorite TV series of 2020!  Click here for part 1 of my list, click here for part two, and click here for part three!  And now, let’s begin my top ten:

10. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Interactive Special – Kimmy vs. the Reverend OK, I’m cheating a bit with this one, since it’s a one-shot movie event and not a series.  But I loved this so much I couldn’t resist.  I was perfectly happy with the original conclusion of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s four-season run, but to get to return to this show and these characters in such a creative, inventive way was pure bliss.  This special utilized the same choose-your-own adventure technology that made the Black Mirror special Bandersnatch so intriguing.  But it turns out that technology was even more effective when used for comedic effect.  There was nearly endless fun to be found exploring the many different interactive choices, many of which took the viewer into bizarre and hilarious comedic digressions.  Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, and Carol Kane were as magnificent as always, and Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe shone in important supporting roles.  This was pure joy for me.  (Click here for my full review.)

9. Brooklyn Nine-Nine season 7 — Over the past few years, the often-underrated Brooklyn Nine-Nine has settled in as one of my very favorite TV comedies currently airing.  It’s without question my favorite show airing on a traditional network.  (I’m so happy that NBC rescued this show after Fox cancelled it!!)  The entire ensemble is so strong!  And the guest cast this season was so great — J.K. Simmons, Bradley Whitford, Jason Mantzoukas, Martin Mull, Craig Robinson, Nicole Byer, and so many more popped up to bring even more fun comedic energy to this already-great show.  Brooklyn Nine-Nine is so funny and also so sweet and positive.  I always smile from start-to-finish when watching it.  (Click here for my full review.)

8. Better Things season 4 — Pamela Adlon’s beautiful, unique, amazing show just gets better and better every year — as do the three young actresses (Mikey Madison, Hannah Alligood, and Olivia Edward) playing Ms. Adlon’s fictionalized daughters on the show.  Better Things is a rich character study, allowing us a peek into the life of Sam (played by Ms. Adlon), her three daughters, her mother Phil, and many of the other women in her life.  The show is focused on exploring the lives of these women; not in a tacky or superficial standard TV sort of way, but through rich, complex, nuanced storytelling.  Each episode is different from the others; the show studiously avoids any … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Click here for part 1 of my list of my favorite TV series of 2020, and click here for part two!

15. Curb Your Enthusiasm season 10 — Ok, sure, the best days of Curb Your Enthusiasm seem to be in the past.  And I thought the first few episodes of this season, in which Larry runs afoul of the #metoo movement, were misguided.  But come on: the episode in which Jon Hamm slowly morphs into a Larry David duplicate was an all-time great.  And that was just one of the season’s many comedic delights, which included (but were by no means limited to): Larry’s wearing a MAGA hat in order to prevent people from coming up and chatting with him; Larry’s getting seated in the “ugly section” at a restaurant; Jeff’s being mistaken for Harvey Weinstein; side-sitting, yo-yo-diets, texting while driving, and all sorts of other shenanigans.  (Click here for my full review.)

14. Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian This behind-the-scenes look at the making of The Mandalorian is a lot of fun for a major Star Wars fan like myself.  The series is a delightful mix of after-the-fact roundtable discussions as well as lots of behind-the-scenes footage.  I was particularly delighted by the fourth episode, which took a deep dive into the revolutionary technology utilized to create the astoundingly beautiful and photo-real visual effects of the show, and the eighth episode, which explored all the myriad fun connections to obscure corners of the Star Wars universe that Jon Favreau, Dave Filoni and others incorporated into the show.  (Click here for my full review.)

13. Star Trek: Lower Decks This animated half-hour Star Trek comedy, exploring the lives of the lower-ranked “lower decks” characters on a Federation starship, is an enjoyable new version of a Star Trek show.  The animation is beautiful, and the show is very funny and packed with endearingly nerdy references to the vast breadth of the Star Trek universe.  It’s a pleasure to be back in the familiar 24th century setting of The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager, and over the course of this first ten-episode season, I grew to quite enjoy this series’ cast of misfits.  The triumphant inclusion of Captain William T. Riker and the starship Titan in the season’s final moments gave me a lot of joy.  This isn’t exactly the type of new Star Trek show I most want to see (I’d have been more interested in a straight, dramatic telling of most of this season’s stories), but dang if I didn’t grow to appreciate it nonetheless.  Bravo to creator Mike McMahan and his team.  I can’t wait for season two.  (Click here for my … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

Yesterday I began my look back at my favorite TV series of 2020 by listing a number of 2019 series that I hadn’t actually gotten to see back in 2019.  Now, let’s turn to TV series that actually came out during 2020!

First, as always, I’ll note that while I watched plenty of TV in 2020, there were also lots of shows that interested me that I didn’t get to.  These include, but are not limited to: Raised by Wolves, Little America, The Last Dance, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, The Right Stuff, Moon Base 8, I May Destroy You, Run, Space Force, and Brave New World.  So if you liked one of those shows and wonder why it’s not on my list, now you know.  OK, onward!

Honorable Mentions: 30 Rock: A One-Time Special and A Parks and Recreation Special These two COVID special episodes of two of my all-time favorite series brought me nothing but joy.  They’re not TV “series” so I didn’t feel that I should include them on my final Best-of list, but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed both of these specials.  It was a delightful, unlooked-for surprise to get to spend a little more time with these beloved characters from these two spectacular TV shows.

21. Marvel 616 — Each episode of this beautifully-produced documentary series on Disney+ explores a different aspect of Marvel history and fandom, shining a spotlight on everything from several current Marvel comic book artists and writers, to fan cosplayers, to the Japanese Spider-Man TV series from the seventies, and more.  (I’ve also gotta give love to the deep-dive of the series’ title, which is a geeky reference that will be way over the head of average fans.  The number 616 has been used occasionally in the comics as the official designation of the Marvel universe within the Marvel multiverse.  This was originated by David Thorpe in a Captain Britain comic book series from the eighties!  Read more here.)

20. The Magic of Disney’s Animal Kingdom — This Disney+ documentary series explores the animals, and the men and women who care for them, at their Animal Kingdom and Epcot theme parks in Florida.  This is Disney propaganda, make no mistake, but it’s slickly-produced and a delight to watch.

19. His Dark Materials season 2 — This is no Game of Thrones, though I’m sure HBO wishes it was.  The story is too confusing and the characters are not as interesting as they should be.  But nevertheless, this series, based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy of novels, is an epic story (clearly made on a huge budget) with a cast of very interesting actors.  It’s fun to watch even though … [continued]

Browse Josh's Portfolio and the Comic, Reviews or Blog archive.

I’m excited to begin my look back at 2020 with this list of my favorite TV series of 2020!

While I usually like to restrict my lists to TV series that aired new episodes during the previous year, this year I’d like to begin with some Honorable Mentions that didn’t.

The Leftovers — One of my very favorite shows that I watched this year was The Leftovers, which aired on HBO from 2014-2017.  I’d avoided the show previously, because I’d been burned by Damon Lindelof’s previous show, Lost, and because the heavy subject matter of this series felt so dour I wasn’t sure I wanted to put myself through watching it.  But after being cajoled for years by friends and family to give this show a try, I finally did.  I am so glad I did!!  The Leftovers, overseen by Mr. Lindelof and Tom Perrotta (who wrote the novel upon which the first season of the show was based), is a masterpiece.  This three season show is nearly perfect in almost every respect.  It’s breathtakingly original, filled with adventurous storytelling and twists and turns I could never in a million years have predicted, and that left me exhilarated as a viewer.  It’s a deeply moving character piece, filled with incredible characters — so many of whom I quickly grew extremely attached to — played by extraordinary actors.  The series is heartbreaking and emotionally wrenching, but also funny and joyous as well.  It’s dazzlingly original.  I’m so glad to have seen it.  I can’t wait to watch it all through again.  (Click here for my review of The Leftovers season one.)

For the first several months of 2020, I found myself watching quite a number of terrific 2019 shows that I hadn’t gotten to by the time I wrote my 2019 lists.  Here are some of my favorites:

Russian Doll — This Groundhog Day remix was gloriously terrific.  It was emotional and moving and also riotously funny.  It featured a dazzlingly compelling lead performance by Natasha Lyonne (who co-created the series with Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler).  I loved the complex, twisty-turny narrative, and I was delighted by how well all the pieces fit together in the end.  I loved how uplifting this often-times dark show was, in the end.  This was one of the very best shows I watched in 2020.  (Click here for my full review.)

Undone — This deliriously fun and weird animated series, created by Kate Purdy and Raphael Bob-Waksberg, is a beautiful, complex character study of a deeply broken young woman, and at the same time it is a gloriously mind-bending sci-fi tale.  Like Russian Doll, I found Undone to be both deeply … [continued]